Thursday, June 18, 2009

Our Homeschooling Curriculum

I said a while back that I wanted to type out all we are using this year for school. I wanted to do this for my own record and, since I always enjoy reading what other people are doing, I thought someone might like to see our plan. There is nothing "polished" about this post, but here it is :0)

We have Aiden (6) in 1st grade, Alex (almost 5) dabbling in Kindergarten, Riley (3) reading along, and Remy (16 months) getting into everything and making things interesting. I wrapped up Aiden's kindergarten in May. Since we were finally in a groove and were excited to receive our new materials we just kept right on going and started 1st grade. I take a week or two off when we need to for travel or just a break. But, I am glad that we kept going because when we move to Atlanta it will be nice to be able to take some time off since we will be ahead. A note about Alex: he says that he wants to do school, but he is just going to be 5 in August. If at any point he starts thinking school is yucky then we'll wait for official Kindergarten to be a year from now. I will probably continue to teach him how to read, but I am not going to push him on the other stuff. I like my boys to have plenty of time to run around and spend the day making mud pies before they have to settle into a school routine until they are 18. Aiden turned 6 just after we started his Kindergarten and I will likely wait with the others, too.

Our school schedule goes something like this:

We read the bible lesson for the day during breakfast. We just started doing this recently and I like it a lot. I clean up from breakfast and the boys get dressed and brush their teeth. I pick up a bit while they play around and get some energy out. I play the scripture memory song while they dance around and sing.

I put Remy down for a nap and read a few books to Riley (3) while Aiden and Alex play downstairs. Then I read a few books to Alex (4) and do his reading lesson while Riley and Aiden play downstairs. Finally I read a few books to Aiden (6), do his math lesson, and his reading lesson while Alex and Riley play downstairs. This is the toughest time because Riley and Alex fight more when it is their turn to be together. I frequently have to holler down to them and tell them to play apart from one another so I can finish with Aiden. When I say read a few books to each boy above I mean that I read anything they choose (unless it is too long). This is just a time to have with each one (on their terms) to start the day off right. I think it has really helped Riley (3) since I have started doing it this way. He gets time with mom first thing!

At this point I get all three big boys on the couch (Remy is still sleeping) and we read our Sonlight books all together. Even Riley (3) likes them. I do let him get down if the reading gets too long. The boys can hold something if they need to fiddle a bit, but I try to encourage them to stay still and pay attention.

After we finish reading I let them play a bit, get lunch, get Remy up, and we all eat. Then everyone washes up and plays a few more minutes while I clean up from lunch. At about 1:00 the three big boys all have rest time. Riley goes to sleep and the other two can look at books, play with legos, use the art bag or something like that. Remy is about to go to one nap so then they will all 4 be down at once! That will be a nice little breather in the middle of the day :0)

After about a hour of rest time I get Aiden up and do his Language Lessons or Writing (depending on the day), and handwriting. When rest time is over I do any art or music I have left to do. Remy goes down for his 2nd nap at 3:00 and the rest of the day is free until it's time to pick up before dinner. We are usually doing the last bit of school around 3:00, but it is very spread out during the day. None of it is in long stretches.

As for the materials we use...

We have followed The Well Trained Mind a good bit in the language arts. I initially thought it was a bit more rigid than I wanted to be. However, the more I looked at it the more I liked it. It is very flexible, customizable, and fun! But, the main reason I like it is that it is very thorough while remaining all the things I just said. I have used the book as a helpful guide instead of trying to do every single thing it suggests. It is a terrific resource and very user friendly. Take what you like and leave the rest.

Reading: The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading I had this book early on and I ended up selling it and using Sing Spell Read and Write. I am glad I did that because it was really fun for the boys in learning letter sounds and blending. But once Aiden knew those things he got really tired of all the workbook pages in SSRW. He just did not need THAT much practice. And, he had trouble writing as much as that curriculum required. I did not want to hold back his reading while waiting for his motor skills to catch up. So, once he was reading three letter words pretty well, I switched back to OPGTR and I have loved it! It is short and sweet and full of meaty lessons. Everything you need is right in that book. And, Aiden loves it, too!

Language Arts: First Language Lessons. Again, I did not know what I thought about this when I first looked at it because it is so scripted. But, it is so easy to make it conversational and customize it. I have loved this book. Each lesson takes about 10-15 minutes and introduces them to parts of speech, punctuation, memorization, narration, etc.

Writing: Writing with Ease: The Complete Writer. Now this is a workbook that goes with a hardback book by the same name. The hardback book has all that you need for writing lessons for 1-4 grade. I recommend reading the intro material in that book to "get on the same page" as Susan Wise Bauer about writing instruction and see where she is headed. But, after I read that, I have not picked up the hardback book since. The workbook is meant to be all you need to follow the instructions in the hardback book. It provides passages to narrate and use as copywork. It has the instructions for each lesson right in the workbook. It truly stands alone. The reason I love this writing program is that it requires very little writing! The author explains that a big part of writing is being able to summarize the thoughts in your head and know the mechanics of writing. Once you can do those things you are able to focus on content more. So, these lessons are full of narration that the parent copies down for the child, and copywork that is very short. The idea is to train them in the art of writing, not have them write a ton at this age.

Math: Singapore Math We started off with Math U See but it was not working for us. I know many families that love it and I thought I would, but Singapore has been just what we were looking for. It is very good at teaching how math applies to life. Singapore teaches each concept from many angles so there is a thorough understanding before moving on. It does not have tons of drill so we may need to supplement with flashcards, but I really love this math program.

I have mentioned Sonlight, but I have not really explained what it is. Sonlight is a terrific company that uses real books (not text books). They publish an instructor guide that organizes all the books so that they flow in order through history or through a certain subject. They pick the best of the best literature and weave it all together to make a curriculum. I just buy their "Core" package which includes their instructors guide and all the books you will need. I love that most of what I am buying is books to fill our kids shelves for years to come. The core I get has history, geography, read aloud books, and some age appropriate readers. One of the great things about this is that there is a wide range of ages that can use each core. When I read the Sonlight part of Aiden's 1st grade, Alex and Riley pile on and get involved too. Look here to see the books we are using right now. Click "View 37 items included with this package" on that page and it will list every book. *Note* They use usborne books and so I have to go through and draw a bit of clothing on some of the people! Also, they have an interesting article with 27 reasons NOT to buy Sonlight here.

Bible: Leading Little Ones to God This is the recommendation from Sonlight for 1st grade and it is excellent. It is very readable and tackles some very hard topics. The music CD is Sing the Word! A New Commandment and has scripture set to music word for word from different translations (depending on what worked for each song). The music is fun and catchy and I love it. There was one for Kindergarten called Sing the Word from A to Z that we liked a lot too.

Handwriting: Italics This is a new one for me, but I am really enjoying it. It is fairly easy for the little ones to write and the transition from print to cursive is the easiest around. My handwriting leaves much to be desired so I started with book E and am trying to get better!

Art: Come Look With Me This is a series that has famous paintings in big color prints and asks engaging questions of the kids. They have been great conversations starters. I do one page of this on Monday afternoon. We just look at the picture on the couch and I casually ask them the questions. Then there is a paragraph that tells about the picture and the artist.

Also, Discovering Great Artists I have not started using it yet. Check it out though. It is a great idea and easy to use.

For music I have just been trying to play an hour or two of classical music on Tuesday afternoon (or more if I remember!). I just got Simply Music for Aiden. He would like to learn the violin and the piano, but we are going to start on the piano and then add the violin a little later. This kid likes music!

Science. Exploring Creation with Astronomy We are not using this yet either. I have read some to the boys and they did like it. But, I felt that we had a full plate and wanted to wait at least until the fall to start using this. I also got this kit that has everything you need for all the experiments. Very helpful!

Lastly, I put a cooking category on my planning sheet. I want to let each boy help me (by himself) while I cook or bake something once per week. I don't get it done every week, but at least it is on my sheet, staring me in the face :0)

I try to get all our school done if 4 days. I do not get every single thing done every day. If that happens I just erase it and write in on the next day. It is not the end of the world. I try to be disciplined, but not stressed out about school. I want to have a routine and teach the kids that they have to do certain things, but I also want them to see me being flexible.

Here is a picture of one week's planning sheet. I try to fill one of these out on Friday or Saturday for the next week. I change it during the week, but it is nice to start off with a plan. As I mentioned above, Sonlight sends me an instructor's guide with everything printed on it. But, I found that when I used that it was hard for me to organize my other things on the sheet. So I use their outline, hand copy it to a blank page, and write my other categories on it. I will talk about filing another day!

I hope some of this has been helpful! It was nice for me to get it out of my head and in print. Thanks for indulging me and enjoy your weekend!


Angie said...

Sounds like a great program you've put together, Brandy. I've used Sonlight with all three of mine in K-2. I also really like the Harrow's Scripture songs. Besides Sing the Word A-Z, we've used God Our Provider. I also found that chanting Psalms and canticles with them was a good way to memorize scripture.

Another Bible resource my kids have enjoyed is "The Picture Bible." Yeah, the idea of a comic book style Bible made me cringe at first, too, but it's actually very well done. My daughter and I took turns reading it together this past year.

Have fun with your boys!

Luke said...

Thanks for sharing! I love reading about different experiences with Sonlight, and it sounds like you are doing great. Keep up the good work [smile].


Brandy said...

Thanks Angie! I will have the get the CD you mentioned. Actually, I think I want to get all of theirs at some point!

I looked and just happened to have a copy of The Picture Bible you mentioned. I guess I picked it up used somewhere. I'll be using that soon, too.

We are having fun with things and I am trying to instill a real love of learning in them. If you have any more tips make sure to send them my way :0) I can always use them!

Brandy said...

Thanks, Luke! yes, we are having a great time. Sonlight is a lot of fun.

Rhonda said...

Well done! I really like your balanced attitude. It's not easy to be firm and flexible at the same time. What a blessing to see you enjoying what God has given you to do. Thanks for sharing. It was thorough, but simply written. I plan to send the homeschooling mothers I know to this article. Be blessed!

Brandy said...

Thanks, Mom!